A new book co-authored by three Indian-origin authors suggests that western companies can adopt the time-tested Indian concept of ‘jugaad’ – a frugal and flexible approach to innovation to succeed in a world that is hyper-competitive and faces resource constraints.
Titled ‘Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal,Be Flexible,Generate Breakthrough Growth’,the book is co-authored by the Cambridge-based professor,Jaideep Prabhu,the US-based innovation strategist Navi Radjou,and Simone Ahuja,founder of a market consultancy based in the US and Mumbai.
The book that has received enthusiastic reviews discusses six underlying principles of ‘jugaad’ innovation: seek opportunity in adversity,do more with less,think and act flexibly,keep in simple,include the margin and finally follow your heart.
Jaideep Prabhu is the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise at the Cambridge Judge Business School,while Radjou is a Fellow of the business school.
The book cites several examples in India where low-cost innovation led to effective solutions and revenue streams.
The book argues that a frugal and flexible approach to innovation can generate breakthrough growth not only in the developing world but also in the West.
During research,the authors discovered that the entrepreneurial spirit of ‘jugaad’ is not limited to India.
They define the Hindi word ‘jugaad’ as an improvised solution born from ingenuity and using scarce resources.
They discovered that it is widely practiced in Argentina,Brazil,China,Costa Rica,India,Kenya,Mexico,the Philippines,and other emerging economies.
Brazilians call it gambiarra; the Chinese,zizhu chuangxin; and the Kenyans,jua kali.
Prabhu said: “Jugaad innovation was once a much bigger part of Western economies. It was the frugal and flexible mindset of ‘jugaad’-style entrepreneurs that catalysed growth in Western economies,like that of the US during the Industrial Revolution”.
He adds: “In the 20th Century,however,Western nations have progressively lost touch with this ‘jugaad’ spirit as they matured into post-industrial economies and became attached to a more systematised,predictable way of life and work.
“Improvised ingenuity – the essence of ‘jugaad’ – took a back seat to a more formally structured approach to innovation.”
Examples from emerging markets cited in the book include the invention of MittiCool,a low-cost fridge invented by an Indian villager,which is made of clay and does not require any electricity to run.
According to Prabhu,’jugaad’ innovation is making a comeback in Western economies.
A major focus of ‘jugaad’ innovators,he says,is making their solutions not only good enough,but also affordable and accessible to their customers.
“For firms and governments around the world struggling to deal with scarcity and complexity,our research suggests that ‘jugaad’ and the emerging markets it comes from offer a solution not only in the developing world but also in the increasingly resource-constrained and complex West,” Prabhu says.